Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson has formed a plan to beat both his plantar fascia injury and the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
“They’re going to send me some special Jordans to make me jump higher,” Jefferson joked, referring to his shoe brand.
So laughter really is the best medicine. Jefferson was in surprisingly good spirits Monday after missing practice, undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging and several hours of treatment. He said there’s no way the injury he suffered Sunday in Game 1 of this playoff series is a season-ender.
“I’m suiting up,” Jefferson said. “It’ll take more than that to make me sit down.”
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The series resumes Wednesday night in Miami (7 p.m., TNT and SportSouth). The Bobcats held a light practice Monday at their training facility in Charlotte, consisting mostly of film study.
The issue for Jefferson is not so much his availability, but rather his effectiveness. He will again miss practice Tuesday and his left foot is encased in a protective walking boot.
The pain he experienced in the first quarter Sunday, after he felt a “pop” in his left foot, was excruciating – he compared it to the sudden attack of appendicitis he suffered several years ago, resulting in emergency surgery.
“Like somebody shot me. A terrible feeling. I knew something was wrong,” Jefferson recalled.
Despite that, Bobcats medical staff told him and coach Steve Clifford that Jefferson is taking no special risk by playing. He was told not to anticipate needing surgery in the off-season; that this is about pain-management now and rest in the off-season.
Jefferson needed two pain-killing injections in order to return to the game Sunday. Before the injury he shot 4-of-4 from the field. After, he shot 5-of-13 and his footwork was clearly affected.
Asked if he’d need more injections (Jefferson said Sunday he hates needles), he replied Monday that pain-killers are now his “new best friend.”
The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous material that runs along the bottom of a foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes.
There doesn’t seem to be a significant risk in Jefferson playing with this injury, so long as he can handle the pain, according to Dallas-based sports orthopedist Dr. Richard Rhodes.
“If you can fight through, and they can manage the pain (with medication), you can go on it and then heal in the off-season,” said Rhodes, describing the plantar fascia as helping the foot hold its natural arch.
Jefferson’s injury was listed as a “strain.” He said he had some light pain in his foot earlier this week that he disregarded.
“It was a little sore, it bothered me in my left foot,” Jefferson recalled. “I should have said something.”
The issue going forward is how Jefferson can perform in the short-run. Clifford said the injury seemed to harm Jefferson’s performance more on offense than defense. In particular, Clifford noted, Jefferson struggled to pivot off his left foot, which is key to his low-post scoring moves.
Jefferson averaged 25.3 points and 57 percent shooting from the field in four regular-season games against the Heat this season. If he can’t deliver something approaching that, it’s hard to picture how the Bobcats stay competitive against the defending NBA champions. Clifford acknowledges the Bobcats depend on Jefferson’s scoring as much as any team does on any player’s skills.
Jefferson agrees with Clifford that he spent much of the second half pulling up for jump shots or floaters, rather than completing a move to the rim. He said that was more out of initial fear after the injury than the physical inability to recreate his moves.
“I stopped short. I was afraid to continue,” Jefferson described. “It was more in my head than anything, that I was afraid to do things I normally do.”
It was clear after the game from Miami center Chris Bosh’s comments that the Heat plans to test Jefferson’s mobility at the defensive end. That likely means going small – as the Heat did much of the second half – and make Jefferson constantly chase around shooters in various pick-and-rolls.
Jefferson didn’t sound worried.
“I’m not concerned with what they’ll do testing my foot,” Jefferson said. “I felt my pick-and-roll defense was good.”